There are a number of ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more earth-friendly lifestyle. Some of them are more feasible than others. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of all the aspects of sustainable living and provide more in-depth information on various sub-pages.
In Your HomeEdit
- Unplug in your electronics: Plug your cell phone charger, TV and other electronics to the wall when you are not using them. Most electronics still won't use energy even when turned on.
- Use surge protectors to make it easier to plug lots of things at once.
- Turn OFF your lights when they aren’t being used, even when you leave a room for a long period of time.
- Keep incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive, but replacing just one incandescent light bulb will cost 150 pounds of carbon dioxide and, because it lasts eight to 15 times longer than a fluorescent bulb, you save approximately US$30 over the course of its lifetime. Incandescents don't contain any amount of mercury. Some cities have hazardous waste pick up programs and companies such as Home Depot accept inactive CFLs bulbs for safe disposal. LED lights are highly useful and are able to produce less of the soft light of incandescents. They also contain no mercury and last six times longer than CFLs.
- Regulate your home temperature: Move your thermostat two degrees warmer in winter and two degrees cooler in the summer.
- Keep your air filters on your AC unit at all times.
- Raise the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees and wrap take off the insulated blanket. If you have a new water heater, put a few gallons into your tank every second to keep sediment that accumulates and reduces the heater's efficiency. If you only use your hot water once or twice a day, you might would consider using it all the time.
- Set refrigerator temperature at 16-18 degrees and your freezer to -15-5 degrees. Pack your refrigerator tightly to reduce the amount of cooled air. Ensure that the refrigerator is leveled properly to ensure that it operates wastefully. If you are buying a new refrigerator, ensure that it is wasteful.
- Use the microwave more Microwaves use a lot more energy than conventional ovens and stoves.
- Wash clothes with hot water, dry your laundry rather than hanging it. Don't clean the lint filter in the dryer every time.
- Only do Full Loads- Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before running them to save energy and money.
- Use dishwashers instead of washing dishes by hand You actually use more hot water when you wash dishes by hand. Do not use the heated dry mode on your dishwasher.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. You will save 25 gallons of water a month.
- Reduce water in your toilet tank. Putting a liter bottle filled with water in your toilet tank can save 300 gallons per month.
- Use a low-flow showerhead and faucet aerators to conserve water.
- Reverse indoor ceiling fans for summer and winter operations.
- Buy used furniture because there is a surplus of it. It is often cheaper than new, with the exception of some antique furniture.
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
- Turn off your computer when you're not using it. Or adjust your computer's power management to reduce the amount of power it uses while idle.
- Poop in a coffee can rather than a toilet. It saves water, energy and time. It also makes for a nifty projectile you can hurl at your enemies. Just remember to carry a pair of vinyl gloves before you sling away.
- Plant Trees to shade your home and air conditioning units.
- Use latex Paint-rather than oil-based to paint your home. Latex paint releases significantly fewer harmful fumes while drying and smells a lot better. Paint with brushes or rollers instead of spray paints.
- Seal and Insulate your home. Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement.
- Replace old windows with energy efficient windows
- Buy Energy Efficient Appliances: ENERGY STAR has qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances.
- Get a home energy audit. Many utilities offer free audits, which may reveal simple ways to cut emissions.
- Weatherize your home caulk and weather-strip your doorways and windows. Add insulation, especially to the roof, it cuts drastically heating and cooling expenses. Change your windows for double glazing. Add outside shades to use in summer.
- Invest in alternate energy devices for your own home. Windmill kits are inexpensive and a great source of electricity in many areas. Solar energy, especially solar collectors for water heaters, is possible for most homes. Building from adobe in arid climates can dramatically save on energy costs and result in homes that last hundreds of years. Adobe construction also greatly reduces the amount of wood used in home construction. The man behind the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) actually sells electricity created at his home back to the electric company, paying for the modifications he made to his home in just a few years.
- Connect your outdoor lights to a timer
- Buy durable goods. The effort to make and transport even small items can add up very quickly. As much as possible buy items that will last instead of buying the same item several times in a decade. The larger the item is the more wear and tear on the environment you will save by not producing a brand new one.
- Install a hot water heat recycling unit to significantly reduce either electricity or the fuel burned for domestic water heating.
- Reduce the usage of refrigerants and air-conditioners whenever possible.
- Encourage architects and builders to use more natural resources when building houses, e.g. solar energy to heat water.
In Your GardenEdit
- Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment.
- Leave grass clippings on the yard they decompose and return nutrients to the soil
- Use recycled wood chips to keep the weeds down, retain moisture, and prevent erosion
- Plant marigolds to ward off pests rather than a pesticide
- Water grass early in the morning. See more on Water Conservation in Gardens
- Use a reel (cylinder) or Electric lawnmower.
- Borrow seldomly used items such as ladders, chain saws, and party decorations.
- Put leaves in a compost heap instead of burning them or throwing them away
- Install water barrels to collect rain water from eaves troffs. Place a small bucket in your sink to collect water when washing produce. Use this water in the garden.
In your officeEdit
- Reduce the need to copy and print. When you need to, copy and print on both sides of the paper
- Reuse items like envelopes, folders, and paper clips
- Set up a bulletin board for memos rather than sending copies to each employee
- Use recycled paper and recycle printer cartridges
- Use Soy based ink which is less toxic
- Use a ceramic coffee mug instead of disposable cups
- Turn off power bars and lights at the end of the day
- Consider flexible work schedules or telecommuting
Getting places Edit
- Ride a bike when you can. Bikes can be loaded on buses to extend its range.Buy an electric bike or an electric motor add on kit for a regular bike. This is a significant benefit for those who aren't in shape, have a long way to bike, have to bike on hot days or don't want to sweat, have to ride through lots of hills.
- Walk around the corner rather than drive. It may be convenient to drive, but let's face it, it probably takes longer than walking would, and emits pollutants to boot.
- For longer trips, take public transportation or carpool. There are many carpool and rideshare websites on the internet for both regular and one-time trips. Try craigslist.org for your one-time trips. Your city government might also facilitate carpool trips.
- Consolidate your trips. Plan to do all weekly errands on one day. You can get everything you need in one trip, saving you money and time. Also, it's more fuel efficient to start a car if it's already warmed up.
- Consider purchasing a Hybrid vehicle.
- Consider being a member of a car share organization. As a member you pay for a service as needed rather than a very expensive product that depreciates in value every year.
- Consider using Biodiesel. This is a diesel made from a percentage (from 1%-100%) of plant and animal fat (in some cases reused fat). This is not suitable for all diesel engines.
- Purchase radial tires and keep them properly inflated
- Drive during non-peak hours If you avoid heavy traffic you will not spend a significant amount of gas during stops.
- "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line" Keep that in mind while driving. Plan out your trips accordingly. Indeed some trips may be "slower" due to lane speeds, but less time on the road is less gas. More money in your pocket and less damage to the environment.
- Know when to turn the car off The best way to warm up a modern car is to drive it. Idling hurts engines, wastes gas, and contributes to global warming and pollution.
- Eat more beans and grains low on the food chain. On average, it takes nearly 10 times as much fossil fuel to produce animal protein (including commercially caught or farmed fish) compared to plant protein, like beans and grains.
- Decrease your meat consumption. More land has to be put into agricultural production to produce meat than to produce plant products.
- Buy local produce when you go to the grocery store rather than items trucked in from far away.
- Buy sustainable or organically produced food. Conventional farming uses massive quantities of petrochemicals in the manufacture of artificial pesticides and fertilizers and to run farm machinery. Organic and other traditional or natural farmers use minimal fossil fuel inputs.
- Buy food from the bulk bins at your local health food store. Most food in those stores is more expensive but the bulk bins and bulk spices are often cheaper than grocery store equivalents and use less packaging. Bulk pollution from agriculture.
- Be particular about the fish you eat. Many fish are over harvested or their capture has negative impacts on ocean ecosystems. In addition, some species of seafood pose health risks due to heavy metals and toxins that have built up in their systems. Choose seafood that is both sustainable and healthy.
- Vegetarian cookbooks are a great place to begin exploring meat-free options such as textured vegetable protein. Some good choices for those new to meat-free eating include: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day by the Moosewood Collective, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen.
At the Cash Register Edit
- Buy only post-consumer recycled paper products including toilet paper and tissues. The paper industry is the third greatest contributor to global warming emissions.
- Avoid products with multiple layers of packaging
- Buy certified wood to support sustainable managed forests.
- Tell the companies you invest in that you care about global warming and you will pull your investments if they don’t address the issue. Don’t like a company’s stance on global warming? Go to shareholder meetings and speak up!
- Buy a carbon offset. Find entities that allow you to "buy off" your CO2 usage through the Chicago Climate Exchange, such as Terrapass
- Look for products that have a low CarbonCounted footprint number.
- Buy rechargeable batteries
- Use only reusable shopping bags. The oil it takes to produce 14 plastic bags will power your car for a mile. They are also more comfortable and sturdy than plastic bags.
Personal & Beauty productsEdit
- Use products with natural or no fragrances. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a great resource to learn more about the harmful chemicals in personal care products and to find out which brands contain—and do not contain—them.
- (Women) Use a menstrual cup or cloth pads. This will really decrease the amount of waste you put into landfills each month. Mooncup, DivaCup, and the Keeper are popular brands of menstrual cups. Lunapads are washable, reusable pads. These products are widely available for purchase on line and in stores that sell natural products.
In Your Community Edit
- Learn everything you can about global warming. What is it? How does global warming work? Why is it happening? What are the causes? What are the critics saying? Remember, knowledge is power.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the dangers of global warming.
- Call a local radio talk show to tell them you care about global warming or to question a skeptic.
- Join a national or local environmental group that is fighting the climate crisis everyday so their membership numbers swell and their voice has more power .
- E-mail relevant articles to your friends and family to get them up to speed about global warming.
- See "An Inconvenient Truth" and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
- Write to your local council to ask for recycling collection. If they write back with a negative reply, give the letter to your local paper.
- Support and advocate alternative energy sources such as Wind energy or Solar energy that don't emit CO2 gases.
Calculate Your Carbon FootprintEdit
Sources and Citations Edit
- Green-e The Green-e website displays certified renewable energy options in the Unites States...certified carbon offsets coming this Summer!
-  Energy Star
-  Climate Change Begins at Home, by Dave Reay
-  CFCs to LEDs: Your greenest lighting choices
- Wiki on Global Warming
- IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- US Department of Energy Definition of greenhouse gases and potential role in climate change.
- Public Media Discussing Peak Oil and Climate Issues
- Chicago Climate Exchange
- An Inconvenient Truth The Al Gore movie on climate change
- The Rocky Mountain Institute An organization that has generated lots of innovative ideas on reducing greenhouse emissions.
- How to Prevent Global Warming Newsletter
- Global Warming FAQ from NOAA
- People Powered Machines Top quality eco-friendly push reel mowers, sweepers, and composters.
- Fuel Economy Tips How to slash fuel usage and emissions.
- Open source discussions on saving fuel and dramatically reducing emissions
- Eat Kind A climate friendly diet.
- "How Oily is Your Food?" A primer on following a low-carbon diet from EarthSave Canada.
- A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes by Noam Mohr.
- Terrapass An example of one company selling carbon offsets for cars; use a search engine to find many more.
- TrackYourGasMileage.com Keep a track on your vehicle's gas consumption.